Peyto Lake, Alberta.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Ruth is in Calgary, and Kevin is in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Nova Scotia on August 17th.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Ladelund Concentration Camp

A somewhat depressing, but interesting, story today.

Many tourists to Europe make an effort to visit the famous Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz in German occupied Southern Poland. But Germany was itself a land of concentration camps, even before the second World War had begun. In fact, Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January of 1933, and by October 1934 he had already established camps that held 2,400 prisoners. By 1938, there were 24,000 prisoners. By 1944 there were 524,000 prisoners.

Yesterday, we crossed the border between Denmark and Germany and the first town we arrived at was Ladelund. We had some lunch and then went for a walk around town. We didn't get very far... our first stop was a museum of some kind, and it turned out to be a memorial museum to the Ladelund Concentration Camp.

The lady there explained a lot of the story to us. 

In the fall of 1944, the Germans were worried about the allies invading from the north, through Denmark.  There was a large concentration camp at Neuengamme near Hamburg, and so they transported 2,000 of the prisoners to the border town of Ladelund in order to use them as slave labor to build anti-tank trenches along the border. 

The 2,000 males were housed in a labor camp that was designed to hold 250 people. They arrived on November 1st, and six weeks later they had dug 10 kms (6 miles) of trenches. The prisoners had to work while standing in ground water in the freezing cold, wearing wooden clogs. The grueling working conditions, insufficient food and overcrowded huts led to an extremely high death rate. And in that six weeks, 300 of those men had died.

The Ladelund town pastor had made sure that the 300 men had a Christian burial, and the Nazis didn't object. They were buried in the town cemetery. He also recorded in the church records as much information about the dead as he could.

Memorial to the concentration camp dead.

The church at Ladelund.

110 of the dead men had been from the town of Putten, Netherlands. 

After the war ended, the Ladelund town pastor contacted each one of the families in the town of Putten, and invited them to visit the graves of their family members. But people were hesitant... after all, you didn't want to be associating with those who were still considered the enemy. 

But by 1949, the town pastor had designed what was to become the first ever concentration camp memorial, and the relatives from the town of Putten began to come. At first, they stayed across the border in Denmark, not wanting to be under the same roof as the enemy. But gradually throughout the 1950's the people of Putten and the people of Ladelund became close, and now there are even annual festivals and gatherings between the people of the two towns.

Ruth, at what remains of the trenches the prisoners had dug.

Nothing remains of the concentration camp itself. Apparently the last structure was torn down in 1970, and the site is now a corn field. 

At the site, there is a small display, and this sculpture.

This horse must be part Dalmatian!

Butterfly plant.


Although this one held an interesting story, I find these visits emotional and depressing. Ruth says we should see more of these sites, and she even wants to visit to larger ones like Auschwitz. I'll go just to accompany her, but I don't find them enjoyable. Yes, I know, we can't ever forget the atrocities that happened, but I really don't need an up close description of them. I prefer to focus on the more positive and enjoyable aspects of life. 

Today, we will put on another 150 kms or so heading south. Hard to believe it's only six days until we fly out of Amsterdam on our journey back to Canada.

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And in Canada...

2 comments:

  1. It is a depressing part of history but we must be reminded of those times so they are not repeated.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is definitely a sad part of history and unfortunately there are still bad things happening to people in other countries even today! Hopefully one day in the future we can all treat each other respect the world over!

      Delete

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